But will she go to prison?

The Philippine Star - - OPINION -

Over three decades af­ter her fam­ily was forced into ex­ile by a pop­u­lar re­volt, Imelda Mar­cos has been con­victed of crimes com­mit­ted dur­ing her hus­band’s dic­ta­to­rial regime.

The Sandi­gan­bayan found Mar­cos guilty of seven counts of graft in con­nec­tion with pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions she set up in Switzer­land when she was a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial from 1968 to 1986. Each count car­ries from six to 11 years in prison.

Vic­tims of the Mar­cos regime, how­ever, know the coun­try’s ju­di­cial sys­tem well enough not to cel­e­brate pre­ma­turely. The case is ex­pected to be ap­pealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and the for­mer first lady and her fam­ily have a for­mi­da­ble sta­ble of lawyers known to be in­flu­en­tial with the courts.

At 89 – and much older if ever the con­vic­tion is af­firmed with fi­nal­ity – Mar­cos might also be spared by sym­pa­thetic mag­is­trates of in­car­cer­a­tion. The con­vic­tion for sim­ple graft al­lows her to post bail. She is also ex­pected to pur­sue her bid for re­elec­tion as con­gress­woman rep­re­sent­ing the sec­ond district of her hus­band’s baili­wick, Ilo­cos Norte, even if the sen­tence per­ma­nently dis­qual­i­fies her from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice.

Still, the con­vic­tion sets a prece­dent for other cases pend­ing against the heirs of dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos. The world, for ex­am­ple, has been con­founded by the seizure of mil­lions of dol­lars es­tab­lished to be ill-got­ten and de­posited in Swiss banks, and the Philip­pines’ fail­ure to hold any­one ac­count­able for the crime. Switzer­land has turned over the de­posits to the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment, but no one has been brought to jus­tice for the plun­der.

The for­mer first lady is still fight­ing ef­forts of the gov­ern­ment to seize her col­lec­tion of price­less paint­ings by the Mas­ters. No pres­i­dent of this repub­lic and his wife can ever earn on an hon­est wage in their en­tire life­time the enor­mous sums needed to buy even one of those paint­ings. The Bangko Sen­tral ng Pilip­inas also has in its safe­keep­ing a king’s ran­som in jewelry con­fis­cated from the Mar­coses as they fled the coun­try.

And yet Fer­di­nand Mar­cos is buried at the he­roes’ ceme­tery, and no Mar­cos has ever been con­victed of cor­rup­tion – un­til now. The ques­tion is whether Imelda Mar­cos will ever ac­tu­ally suf­fer the penalty for graft, or if her con­vic­tion will turn out to be noth­ing but a farce.

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